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Shoppers buy earlier this holiday season


NEW YORK – Online shopping has grown sharply so far this holiday shopping season after United States retailers pushed out a slew of mobile and Internet deals that lured consumers before Cyber Monday, traditionally the biggest day for e-commerce in America.


While it remains to be seen if the gains over Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday can be sustained, the latest estimates show shoppers scooping up early special offers via their smart phones and tablets, the way they used to hunt for bargains in brick-and-mortar stores.

Online sales increased 17,4% on Thanksgiving and 20,7% on Black Friday, compared with 2011, according to IBM Smarter Commerce, a unit of International Business Machines Corp that analyses transactions from 500 US retailers.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, had traditionally been the kickoff to the holiday season for stores. This year, retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp. made their biggest push ever with special offers during the holiday itself.

“The Thanksgiving creep revitalised the thrill for people,” said Wendy Liebmann, chief executive of WSL Strategic Retail. “It got people excited to go out. But it pulled a lot of sales forward.”
Visits to stores rose 3,5% on Friday, down from a 4,7% increase last year, ShopperTrak estimated.

Sales actually fell an estimated 1,8%, the company, which analyses store traffic, said. But if Thursday sales were added in, ShopperTrak estimates that “Black Friday” sales would have been up a little less than 1% from a year earlier.

“It’s not a superstar Black Friday, but it also wasn’t an underperform Black Friday,” said Ed Marcheselli, chief marketing officer of ShopperTrak.

Cyber Monday, which follows the long holiday weekend, has been the biggest day for online shopping in recent years, as workers return to their office computers.

Now, armed with mobile devices, particularly Apple Inc’s iPad and iPhone, shoppers are no longer waiting. They are also using the devices to track down the lowest prices.

The average order value on Black Friday declined by 4,7% to $181,22 and the average number of items per order dropped 12% to 5,6 according to IBM.

Client sales on Black Friday rose 23% from last year, while Thanksgiving sales rose 32% year over year, estimated Mercent, which helps merchants sell more on websites including Amazon.com, ebay.com and Google Inc’s online shopping program.

“What we don’t know is whether this is a zero-sum game or whether there is some benefit to retailers by broadening the holiday shopping window,” Best said.

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